Taiwan deploys advanced F-16V fighter jets amid Chinese threat :: WRAL.com

– Taiwan has deployed the most advanced version of the F-16 fighter jet in its air force, as the autonomous island ramps up its defense capabilities in the face of persistent threats from China, which claims it to be doing so. part of its territory.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen commissioned 64 improved F-16V fighter jets at a Chiayi air base on Thursday. The aircraft is part of Taiwan’s 141 F-16 A / B jets, an older model from the 1990s that will be completely modernized by the end of 2023.

Tsai said the upgrade project shows the strength of Taiwan’s cooperation with the US defense industry. It comes at a time when the island’s status has become a major point of tension in US-China relations.

Beijing has stepped up its threat by regularly sending fighter jets in combat formations to the Taiwan buffer zone in the southwest of the island, as well as longer-term missions in the western Pacific.

China has also stepped up its rhetoric, with President Xi Jinping telling President Joe Biden at a virtual summit this week that challenging China’s claim to the island is playing with fire.

China and Taiwan separated in a civil war in 1949, and Beijing has not ruled out force to reunite with the island.

The United States’ “One China” policy recognizes Beijing as the government of China but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei.

“This represents the unwavering promise of the Taiwanese-US partnership,” Tsai said. “I am convinced that by holding firmly to democratic values, there will certainly be more countries with similar values ​​who will stand with us on this front.”

The F-16V is the most technologically advanced version of the multirole fighter aircraft, equipped with high performance radar, allowing it to track more than 20 targets at a time. It also includes advanced electronic warfare systems, advanced weapons, precision GPS navigation, and a system to automatically avoid collisions with the ground.

The planes represent the most advanced fighter jets of the fourth generation, but still fall short of the latest fifth generation, such as the American F-22 and F-35, and the Russian Su-57 and Chinese J-20. Taiwan has raised the idea of ​​buying fifth-generation aircraft from the United States, but the F-16 upgrade was decided as the most effective measure under the current circumstances.

The Taiwan Air Force also operates French Dassault Mirage 2000 and AIDC F-CK Chingkuo fighters designed and manufactured in the country for a total fleet of around 400.

China, on the other hand, operates around 1,600 fighters, about half of which are based in theaters of operations to the east and south contiguous to Taiwan, as well as around 450 bombers. China’s superiority in the quality and quantity of fighter jets is seen to tip the military balance in the Taiwan Strait to its advantage, regardless of the involvement of US forces.

With upgrades and the planned delivery of 66 new F-16Vs in 2023, Taiwan will be the largest F-16 operator in Asia, said Kitsch Liao, military and cyber affairs consultant for DoubleThink Lab, an organization targeting the disinformation. This means the island should invest in repair centers for the jets to improve readiness, Liao said. Previously, Taiwan had to send the jets to other countries for repair.

In Chiayi, F-16 pilots demonstrated complex maneuvers on Thursday, flying low in the sky.

Sandra Oudkirk, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan, was also present.


Wu reported from Taipei, Taiwan.

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